|Shabalov Wins STL Thanksgiving Open, GM Norm Tourney Begins|
|By Mike Wilmering & Mike Kummer|
|November 29, 2011|
SAINT LOUIS, November 28, 2011 -- A total of 82 players, including seven grandmasters, spent their Thanksgiving weekend at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for the 2011 Thanksgiving Open. GM Alex Shabalov took clear first with a score of 5.5/6, earning him the top prize of $1,600. He was a half-point ahead of his opponent GM Sam Shankland heading into the final round, but he held the draw to secure first.
“I prepared before the game thinking the Caro Kann was an ingenious choice because I expected either the advanced variation Caro Kann or 3. Nc3 from white,” Shankland said. “But when he played the Panov attack, all I kept remembering was I had 20 different endgames where I was slightly worse but drawing, but no real winning chances.”
Shankland tied for second place with GM Ray Robson,who defeated IM Danny Rensch in round six. Robson and Shankland each took home $800.
Shabalov’s stellar performance included a round-five victory over GM Gregory Kaidanov and a round-three win over Robson.
In the final round Spencer Finegold drew WIM Zeynuk, and Nick Karlow defeated James McLaughlin to split the U2200 prize four ways with Mark Ferber and Alexander Velikanov. CCSCSL Scholastic Coordinator Alex Vergilesov took home $175 in a four-way split for the U2000 prize with a nice win to cap a strong tourney.
GM Ben Finegold’s student, Matt Larson, scored 4.5/6 to earn clear first in the U1800 section and $1,000, while Chess Club regular Nathan Phan drew his round-six opponent to win the U1600 prize of $450.
In the U1400 Section, Chess Club regular Mike Buckley shocked everyone by winning his section with 5.5/6.
"I just played boring chess, making sure I didn't drop any pieces, then picked my spots," he said.
He has been playing at the Chess Club every Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon for the past year. Buckley said he also has played GM Ben Finegold in ladder games recently and has been learning from his mistakes in the post-game analysis. Going into the tourney with a rating of just 595, Mike was paired up every round and never backed down. He started playing less than two years ago, and all his hard work finally paid off as he earned a $1,000 payday.
A few of the tournament participants are staying another week in Saint Louis to compete in the CCSCSL Invitational, the first-ever GM Norm tourney to be held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. GM Andre Diamant, GM Mesgen Amanov, IM Danny Rensch and IM Angelo Young will join six others in a nine-round, round-robin tourney with GM Norm (and IM Norm) chances on the line. The players are: